Category Archives: Identity

Should Mrs Zuckerberg be labelled Chinese?

The headline read: Who are the biggest Chinese philanthropists? What caught my attention, before even reading a line of the piece, was the accompanying photographs. Beside stock images of a smiling Li Ka Shing and Jack Ma Yun was the younger, prettier and decidedly different face of Priscilla Chan.

Apart from being, so the article claims, one of the three most generous Chinese philanthropists – a claim I would be cautious to make given generosity is to my mind not measured in absolute sums but in spirit – Priscilla Chan is the wife of Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook. She is also, like her husband, American.

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To Choose and to be a Hong Kong Person「選擇」做香港人?

In his weekly column on Hong Kong identity, Evan highlights the important distinction between those who identify with Hong Kong by choice and those for whom a Hong Kong identity is their only reference. Evan Fowler is the founder of the Hong Kong Identity Project (HKIDP), a privately funded initiative to document, archive and explore the Hong Kong identity; the Chinese translation is provided by Alan Chiu.

編按:在本週的專欄, Evan 強調「選擇」當香港人的人與只以「香港人」作唯一身份的人,兩者之間是有重要的分別。「香港身份計劃 (HKIDP) 」由方禮倫創辦,是私人資助項目,旨在記錄、歸檔和探討各種關於香港身份的活動。譯文由 Alan Chiu 提供。

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我是香港人與銘記二戰 On Belonging in Hong Kong and Remembering the War

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編按:方禮倫在這篇分為兩部份的短文中,敘述了一段深刻對話,這對話叫他深思香港不斷變化的「國際主義」和對二次大戰的紀念。他希望讀者能夠從歐洲國家的經驗中有所得著,並把我們的仇恨止於一場過去的戰爭,而非一個民族或國家之上。譯文由 Stephanie Lo 提供。

In his short two part essay, Evan recounts a conversation that made him reflect on the changing “internationalism” of Hong Kong and remembrance of the Second World War. He asks us to learn from the European experience, and confine our hate to a past action and not to a people or state. The Chinese translation is provided by Stephanie Lo, and the original text is beneath the translation. )

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Hong Kong’s Generational Divide

A week ago my father asked me whether I would consider leaving Hong Kong if this city became a place I could no longer call home. I told him that Hong Kong is my home, not only as a place but also as I feel a sense of belonging to the community. If I were forced to leave it would be as a refugee. It was a perspective my father accepts, but does not comprehend.

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My Love for Hong Kong. And Why I Will Not Leave.

Why do you love Hong Kong so much?

This has been a question I have recently often been asked. It is not because I exude the positive glow of a man loving his life in this great city. Those who have asked me this question are people who know me well. They are people with whom I share a similar experience of Hong Kong; people who share my joy and also my pain.

It is a question they ask already knowing my answer. I love Hong Kong because it is home. It is an answer that they too would give if asked the same question. But they ask me still because they feel our answer increasingly rings hollow.

Hong Kong is increasingly an unloved home. It has become a burden rather than a joy. A source not of hope but of regret and disappointment. If I had a choice I wouldn’t choose Hong Kong as home. But this is a choice I do not believe I have.

One may be able to choose were to live, but our roots are inherited and remain firmly embedded in a place and among a community. For some, these roots are shallow, and spread out over a wide surface. Not reliant on a single patch of ground, they are often more adaptable and better able to weather changing conditions. With shallow roots a sapling can be replanted in a new and more fertile patch of land. But shallow roots feel only the topsoil.

In others these roots run deep. Having taken root, an old oak now stands in time, a witness to the changing seasons. We value those with deep roots differently. They do not add to the garden, but define the natural landscape within which a garden is itself set. To sever these roots is to kill the tree. It is also to remove a relationship between the living and the earth that can not just be replaced. The landscape itself must change fundamentally.

It is not a matter of time, nor of generations or heritage. It is an attitude, in how one is by nature connected to a place – both a physical and social environment. It depends on what home means to the person. It depends on how we understand it, which in turn depends on how we love.

I feel my roots deeply. Hong Kong has defined all that is important to me. It frames my earliest childhood memories, and provides the values, the traditions and the culture that guide my relationships. It is my first and defining love as it is my hate. It provides the context within which I have grown, the backbone around which my person is built.

I may have a foreign passport. I may have the right to reside elsewhere. But I do not hold this passport as a foreign national, but as a Hong Kong man. It is neither my ticket home nor my escape, but a mark of the (admittedly privileged) local community in which I was raised. I retain it because it is a Hong Kong things to do, a relic of a shared and local history when under a more direct threat the passport served a more obvious purpose. I am sure there will be a time when I give up my foreign passport, but this will be when as a Hong Kong person it no longer feels rights.

We never know what the future has in stall. Perhaps I will leave Hong Kong. Perhaps a landscape crafted by many generations will be deemed unfit for the new estate our lords in the North are building, and every oak will be felled and every hillside levelled. If stranded in a field of weeds my tree may whither. But even should my seed be carried on foreign winds to a new patch of land the tree will remain. It may never again blossom, it’s roots cut, a dead stump hollowed out, but it will not go.

To leave Hong Kong is to leave everything that I am. It is to reject all that I experience. It is to turn inward, to reject one reality in search of another; to understand myself not as a part, of a community and place, but as merely a self. It is to reject my past, to sever my roots and to realign my perspective; to reframe reality around a new context. It is, in short, to accept the death of who I am now and to embrace the uncertainty of being reborn someone else. This is a decisions I never wish to have to make. It is also a decisions only I should ever make.

 

I am not a patriot. I love no political entity, nor do I hold any national ideology dear. As with all ideologies, their place is in the mind and not the heart. They are taught and not felt. Let them be our studies.

 

But I love my home. I love those people, and the community that I am a part of. I love the places, and the institutions that have framed my understanding. I love the culture and traditions that forged my sense of my humanity, and my heritage that has given me a context. All have shaped who I am. This is home.

On Our National Day Advertisements

Next Wednesday, October 1st, is National Day. Around town banners, flags and posters advertise the occasion, proclaiming the 65th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. It is this nation defined by politics, not the civilisation-state that it so often claims to represent, that we are being asked to celebrate. Both politically and aesthetically I find myself cold to the appeal.

An advertisement plays to a specific market. It references a specific culture to convey not only a message but also, and more importantly, a feeling. Colour and hue is used to set a general tone. Set to this is an image to communicate a more specific message, and to refine the way we react to it. If a slogan is used, the words, their tone and the font used will likewise appeal to this combination of message and feeling. All however is understood within a specific cultural framework.

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Cantonese:Not a Useless Language

At a local international school two girls, recently transferred from elite local schools, share a joke in their mother tongue. The joke is told in a mix of English and Cantonese — a language that they are most comfortable with and one able to convey the meaning and specific humour of what is a local and Cantonese joke. They are overheard by a teacher who promptly scolds them. “Cantonese is a useless language”, they are told, “it won’t get you into university, and it won’t get you a job”. Mandarin and English though are fine.

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